NEW YORK CITY — Fifteen years ago, FDNY Battalion Chief Lawrence Stack was killed in the collapse of the World Trade Center and his remains were never found, depriving his grieving family of eulogizing the fallen hero at a funeral.
But Friday, on what would have been Stack’s 49th wedding anniversary, his widow and family will finally find some closure.
They have tracked down a vial of blood the late chief donated to a bone marrow bank not long before he died that they will bury following a full FDNY line-of-duty funeral.
“We always hoped and prayed we would get something back,” said Stack's son Michael, who's a 22-year FDNY veteran.
“After 9/11 happened, we always wanted something back — and days turned into weeks then months and then years, and then five years, and 10 years, and now we are near 15 and we decided it was finally time to bury him.”
On 9/11, Stack, 58, was in his Brooklyn office, where he was head of the department’s Safety Command. He was finalizing details in an emotionally grueling report involving one of the FDNY's greatest tragedies before Sept. 11, 2001 — the “Father’s Day Fire” that claimed three firefighters that June 17.
Stack suddenly heard the impact of a hijacked jet crashing into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
The former Vietnam vet in the U.S. Navy raced up to the roof and, with binoculars in hand, was looking at the raging fire atop the North Tower when a second jet slammed into the South Tower and burst into flames a short time later.
“I think they are going to need us there,” the 33-year fire veteran told his staff, which immediately headed off to the burning Manhattan towers.
According to officials, Stack made it into the South Tower and was assisting people when it collapsed.
He survived the collapse by wiggling out of his protective coat that was caught on some rubble, and was helping two FDNY lieutenants out of the burning wreckage when they saw an injured man from Iowa who had torn an Achilles tendon and could not walk.
Stack ordered the lieutenants to keep on running as he and FDNY Chief Ray Downey stayed behind to help the civilian.
They perished when the North Tower fell.
Michael Stack was also working that fateful day, and he said by nightfall he realized that he was never going to see his father again.
His father’s jacket was found a few months later on New Year’s Day, but none of his remains were discovered despite all the sophisticated technological testing that went on over the years to find them.
About a year ago, his widow, Theresa, now 71, recalled how she and her husband donated blood not long before 9/11 to try to be a match for a Long Island boy battling cancer. They reached out to the New York Blood bank to see if their donation was still there. A few months ago, they tracked it down in a repository in Minnesota.
“We also chose next Friday for the funeral because it is also the anniversary of the Father’s Day fire,” Michael Stack added.
A huge turnout is expected for Stack’s service at the St. Phillips/St. James Church in St. James, Long Island, and his burial will follow at the the US. Military cemetery in Calverton.
“It’s time to have a place to visit and memorialize my dad,” Michael Stack said of his father, who made the ultimate sacrifice for his city and nation.